MHS packing up artifacts for new construction at Montana Heritage Center

Posted at 5:27 PM, Oct 04, 2022

HELENA — Imagine trying to figure out how to pack a bison. Well, that’s exactly the kind of problem-solving the Montana Historical Society is tackling as they pack up in preparation for their big move.

The Montana Historical Society is in the midst of a huge transformation with the creation of the Montana Heritage Center. This huge addition of space will nearly double the amount of gallery space, a total of about 30,000 square feet. In addition to the new building, their current building will be renovated to fit seamlessly with the new space. The current entire project costs about $81 million. Around half of that is publicly funded. The rest is privately funded. In order to achieve their desired project enhancements such as an outdoor amphitheater, the group is looking for an additional nearly $8 million in private funding.

“So, we are continuing to fundraise, but we do have enough money to complete the project. But we want those enhancements. We want this to be a really special place for the people of Montana,” says Director of the Montana Historical Society, Molly Kruckenberg.

But like with any move, the society is in the long process of packing up their paintings, statues, artifacts, and treasures for transportation and storage. This process takes countless hours of cataloging so that each item can be easily uncovered when they want to display it again.

“We have a million historic photographs. We have 60,000 artifacts in our collection. And every single one of those items has to be inventoried, packed, protected, cared for during the construction process,” says Kruckenberg.

While galleries in the museum are being packed away, a few will remain open for as long as they can.

They predict that all galleries will be shut down by spring or summer of 2023 and won’t reopen until the Montana Heritage Center is opened in early 2025.

Certain selections will be available online for those who wish to view the art while the galleries are closed.

“But it's also going to be just a fantastic space for all Montanans to come and learn about our past. It's so important to understand where we came from so that we can understand who we are today and really create that plan for where we want to go in the future,” says Kruckenberg.